I think I’ve just started my period. It’ll be the first one since we started IVF cycle 2 – the one that resulted in baby B. I think we started in April 2016! Strange to think I haven’t had one since then!
I was sort of hoping I could hold off the periods indefinitely as I’m still breastfeeding B. He’s just under a year old now. I feel strangely emotional as I was hoping I could at least make it to his first birthday without having one, but I guess it wasn’t to be. It’s especially strange as today’s his first day back at nursery after the Christmas break, and I have been breastfeeding him more than usual (as he’s often away from me during the day), so I didn’t really expect to get a period now.
Agh. I hope it isn’t a period. But I think it might be.
For many years all through infertility and then loss, blood was a sign that my body wasn’t doing stuff right, wasn’t getting pregnant and wasn’t remaining pregnant.
I had really bad periods with endometriosis and fibroids. Could knock me out for days.
I don’t feel like that now but I do feel really run down because of flu – which I managed to get on Christmas Day and am still in recovery.
Have breastfed through it all. The one thing that’s gone right is our breastfeeding journey. I’m even hoping to make it to two years unless B wants to wean in between time!
Anyway, there you have it… The end of an era!
I never seem to manage to make the time to blog much any more, and that’s a perfect microcosm of how it feels to be a working mother – there’s never enough time for anything. Which is crazy, because I have a million unwritten blog posts swirling in my head. Many of which are about the strange hinterland that is being a working mum (mom!) after years of infertility.
First things first: I am so grateful to be here. I still do a double take every single day when I wake up next to my beautiful boy and I realise that somehow, after all the struggle, I am a mother. How did this happen?, swirls through my mind every day. I thank all those people silently who helped that dream become a reality. And I don’t easily forget all the years where it didn’t seem possible.
Second things second: Being a mother after infertility is a strange thing to be… I feel like it’s almost a different thing from being a “normal” mother. I don’t think we post infertiles ever really forget the deep grief and fear, the joy-pain of pregnancy after loss, the hoping and wishing that something will go right after so many wrongs. My overwhelming emotion most of the time is deep joy and gratitude that I have managed to have this experience of carrying and giving birth to a human being… my first known biological relative.
Which brings me to the third point: Having a child after being adopted [in a closed adoption] is a huge thing. It’s monumental. Having a child after having been transracially, transnationally adopted – if you weren’t, you can’t even begin to comprehend the profundity of it. I couldn’t, before it happened to me, despite that person being me.
To look into my baby’s face and recognise my own – to feel that deep kinship, to feel joined to someone else when it has never happened before in my living memory – it’s the most gut wrenching joy-pain you can imagine. To realise what I lost as a baby. To realise what I’ve gained through having my baby. To realise my birth culture and language is lost to me and I can’t pass it on to him… To realise that matters – even despite the joy. To live in that complexity where joy can coexist with grief and loss.*
Of course – I don’t want to put that on him. He has no responsibility other than being my baby doing babyish things and hopefully drawing as much joy out of life as a baby can inhale. And yet – he is everything.
(*I already knew what I’d gained – prevailing adoption narratives always focus more on gain than loss. I can be happy and adopted and have suffered deep loss all at the same time. That’s adoption complexity for you.)
Fourthly: After so many other “Not like the other” categories, Working Mother has to be the most stark. I genuinely never knew that the battle lines of Motherhood were so entrenched. And none more than Stay At Home Mother vs Working Mother. I never wanted to be caught up in these battles, any more than I wanted to define myself by Crunchy Mom vs Gina Ford Mom, or Breastfeeding Mum vs Fed is Best Mum – and yet, if there’s one thing mothers seem to like doing, it’s defining themselves as a Mum Type. (I’m Haphazard, Intuitive Mum… completely disorganised and completely in love. That’s all really.) I realise in so many spaces I don’t really fit in. And the (relative) loss of my antenatal buddies – who fell by the wayside as soon as I went back to work – felt like a rejection of the old school kind. (And that’s not even to get into the whiteness of motherhood… and how that makes a transracial adoptee feel. A complex subject for another day!)
And yet, I think we’ve settled into our own niche. I’ve found mum friends – some of whom will probably last and some of whom probably won’t. Quite honestly, it’s hard to cultivate friendships when you work full time and other mums seem to have endless pools of time to do Mum things and they use their weekends to catch up with their husbands… My baby is at nursery during the week and so even if I’m working from home, I can’t really meet mum friends, because why would I want to go and spend time with someone else’s baby when mine is in daycare? Like I said, it’s a strange hinterland and we find our own way.
I have made some Mum buddies whose kids go to our nursery – their kids are a bit older, because I had to go back to work so soon. But it’s good because we have more in common. (I’m the terrible one feeding my child Ella’s Kitchen premade pouches instead of developing a varied baby menu and posting pictures of tot cuisine to our whatsapp groups. Our working mums group is a safe space for all of us who’ve ended up rushing across town all sweaty to grab our babies at the last possible minute. No Lingo Tots or prosecco in the play park for us!)
The thing is, I wish I could join those other mums. I’d love to be a stay at home mum, for even a time, and I find myself wondering whether it’s possible to have it all, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t – something has got to give. For working mums, it’s missing out on all the mundane stuff that our SAHM friends take for granted. The idea I might not see my child’s first steps.
Which brings me to: The Dilemma.
I’m doing not too badly in my job. Weirdly… It always makes me a little nervous when things are going well because I’m primed to feel like something is bound to go wrong. But I’ve managed to develop a great working relationship with my boss (the one I wasn’t happy that my old boss – who I love in a work platonic way – put in place). We seem to be quite symbiotic and complementary and work well as a team. And I am lucky that what I’m doing right now means I have the flexibility to work from home a fair amount and to continue breastfeeding/ pumping. (11 months next week. How did that happen?!) It’s important to me that I am able to do that. And coincidentally, I also get paid more than I ever did before, and my working hours are more reasonable. I honestly don’t know how that happened. I like to think it’s my karmic reward for putting up with so much **** in my old job!
Let’s not beat around the bush – I’m the main breadwinner. By a lot. I get paid almost double what T gets paid. We were lucky enough to have an offer accepted on our dream flat this year and it’s my salary that enabled us to get the mortgage (plus a fair bit of help from my parents with the deposit). So I need to work to continue to provide for our family. T is an awesome partner as he’s much more organised than I am and he figures out everything we need to do domestically. I just have one job – to earn the money. (Well, and to feed B!) Doing what I do helps keep us afloat. And getting promoted, earning more and doing well would help us reach our sweet spot (pay off debts and mortgage) sooner.
Our company is having a leadership summit in January, and I received an invitation. It’s a long way away – a transatlantic flight away. It goes on for four days plus travel. And only approved people get invited.
I got an invitation. It’s a big deal.
I asked my big boss if there was a mistake. (Surely not me!) My manager wasn’t sure either… She said our big boss had to approve all names so I must have been invited, but maybe not.
I emailed him to check there hadn’t been an error.
He called me. No error. I’m invited. “As a member of the leadership team.” Of course! (I’m like the most junior person in the team. They’re all one or two grades above me, or in his case, four!)
And when is this conference? Smack bang over my baby’s very first birthday.
He told me, You don’t have to come. Let me know and if you don’t want to, I’ll give your space to Andy. (Andy is another relatively junior member of the team. Hopefully not as well regarded as me.)
All the global leadership will be there… It’ll be a great networking opportunity. All expenses paid.
And… It’s my baby’s first birthday.
T says, He won’t know. We can move it a couple of days and celebrate then. I say, But I’ll know. I’d be on the other side of the world when my baby turns one.
My manager has asked me to work on a big piece of work over that time anyway, so the decision may yet be taken out of my hands, but the summit probably takes priority – if I want to go.
Every few minutes I change my mind about what is an obvious decision. And it comes back to my multiple identities and how the “obvious” answer changes according to which identity I’m cloaking myself in at the time. I am a mother. I am a working mother. I’m an adoptee whose baby is the most important person in the world to me. I am a mother after loss who realises how precious those small mundane things are. I am a transnational, transracial adoptee who finally made a family. I’m someone who was cut off from her roots who invests a huge amount emotionally in birthdays because they are the only link to my past.
I am all those things and I am my baby’s mother and I am a great worker and I want to do well so I can provide for him and make him safe, keep a roof over his head, keep him happy.
But he is not me. B is not me. He is himself, and he’s wonderful and joyous and giggly and amazing and cute. He doesn’t need to be anything for me, but I need to be everything for him.
How do we ever resolve our multiple identities? How do we decide what is best?
I don’t know if we ever can, but I’m going to have to try…
A few weeks ago we had a little mini holiday to Wales. It rained a lot of the time but we had a great time nonetheless. That’s Wales for you! And we recreated a photo we took years ago on the beach, for our fifth anniversary. (Dog is in the originals but in the spirit of anonymity I’m preserving his!) It was strange to think that nothing has changed, and everything has changed. I feel a bit giddy when I realise I’m actually a mother!
We went to visit The Centre for Alternative Technology which was much more interesting than I’d anticipated! It made T think we aren’t doing enough for the environment and he later discovered our beloved Nissan Qashqai is the worst car for the environment! We hardly use it, but we are definitely going for a more environmentally friendly one next time!
On rainy days we did various things. We went for afternoon tea. We played with B. He’s desperately trying to walk! Poor Dog is hyper vigilant now in case of tail pulling! They seem to be buddies on the whole especially when B drops food…
It’s nice to get away, and just decompress, I think. I really enjoy my job at the moment because they give me a lot of freedom (eg working from home) but it’s still a kind of structure and I don’t have that when I’m on holiday. Also, a few days in a welsh valley without tv or Internet will do that for you!
But the best thing about going away is coming home. (And WiFi!)
Confession time. Sometimes I can be a real bitch. That’s over a decade of infertility for you! Sometimes I feel the old jealous, mean feelings coming back.
I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while and it’s probably just going to sound like a massive whine. But I keep meaning to blog more, for good and for bad, so here goes.
We are having a small naming ceremony at home for B. In our new flat! It’s going to be mainly home made stuff and a small group of friends and family and hopefully will be really lovely, but I don’t want to write about it too much on here because it’s a nice thing and this venting is not, so I’ll write it up separately.
The reason I want to vent is because I just feel hurt that it’s very likely none of my siblings will be attending. Now they all have reasons, some of which are better than others in my opinion, and I know this is all mumzilla and B won’t give a flying poop about any of it, but to me it’s about something deeper, which is the fact that I never thought I’d get to have a baby and it’s a special occasion I want to mark and none of my siblings can be arsed to attend.
This is unfair of me of course and that’s why I’m venting on here. But I’m finding it hard not to feel salty about it. Well mainly about my sister.
One of my siblings can’t attend because of living in a different country that’s very far away… Efforts were made but it isn’t going to happen, sadly. But they (sibling plus partner) are going to record a reading and try and FaceTime in to the ceremony, so at least they’re making an effort.
My brother who lives not that far away is probably not going to be able to make it with his family because of my niece’s (medical/developmental) problems. I get that it’s hard. I can’t imagine how hard it is. (Although she’s been fine when we have seen her sporadically including a few weeks ago when we went out for a family gathering – it was closer to their home though.) They seem to not want to take her out anywhere. Again. I get it. But they can go out for things they want to go out for. Just not for me/us.
I know it’s not quid pro quo but I went to her christening around what would have been my due date for PB (my first pregnancy, after IVF, that ended in miscarriage). I didn’t want to go but I sucked it up and even though I felt crappy about it, I turned up.
I probably would feel madder with my brother but ever since they identified my niece’s health problems I’ve felt all my jealousy for his perfect life dissipate. But my sister in law didn’t come to my baby shower and nor did my sister. In fact none of my family came.
My sister has point blank refused to come. My new niece was born a month ago and she says it’s too far to travel. I’m sure she has a point. It’s about a 3hr drive between us. She says that the car seat manufacturers say the baby can’t be in a car seat for more than two hours at a time and I’m like… Haven’t you heard of rest stops?! It’s not like she would be driving anyway – I always sit in the back with B and T drives us, and we have driven way longer than that and B is perfectly fine. But she’s very highly strung and she won’t hear any of it and anyway she’s really stressed about feeding and whatever and sticks to some convoluted schedule that apparently she can’t deviate from by a minute.
I also felt during my pregnancy that I couldn’t really be happy because my sister then was going through IVF (a frozen transfer not a fresh cycle) and she was completely nuts about it so I wasn’t able to celebrate it. I always have to mute my feelings for hers because she’s so prone to anxiety and depression and I’m always the one talking her down from the ledge.
She’s super demanding as well, even when it’s not convenient for us. She insisted she wanted the Sleepyhead (cot cushion) and I could have sold it locally for £70 as they hold their value (cost new £110), but instead I walked to the post office in the rain and queued up for ages so that she could have it on next day delivery because she needed it right that minute and kept asking me to send it straight away. Bearing in mind I was doing her a favour and saved them £110 and lost myself the resale value of £70! And it cost me a decent amount to send!
The thing that really upset me on top of the naming ceremony non attendance was that she’d said when she was pregnant that she wanted the electric rocker… It cost around £150 new and so rather than selling it when B was done with it, we had it in the tiny living room of our tiny flat for the past four months. Like you don’t really get how small our flat is… The frame took up half the sofa and the rocker was balanced on piles of boxes because we had to move it around when we wanted to move around! So I was pretty p*ssed off when she sent a picture of the niece in a new rocker they’d just bought. (Same make but cheaper model than the one that has taken up our living room for four months.)
When I said about the rocker she had asked us to save for them she said she “forgot, sorry.” Yeah that is fine… I mean we’ve been tripping over the damn thing for four months but whatever.
Man, I was so annoyed. I’m sure that this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back and this is just showing what a horrible person I am. I’m also really annoyed with her because all she does is complain and find things hard when she didn’t have to go through a fresh cycle of IVF (though made sure we all felt her pain), has had an uneventful pregnancy, a healthy baby and she gets to take over a year off work when I had to go back after four months. Not to mention their huge house they just bought. (Our dream house is a two bedroom apartment. Theirs is a five bedroom house!) She’s just a Class A whiner.
So I get that I’m being unreasonable, I really do, but I can’t help feeling upset about this. She had previously asked us to reschedule the naming from July or August to September so she would be able to come but then decided she didn’t want to.
I guess… I know I would have gone if it had been the other way round. I know that babies can travel. And B has always been a pretty easy baby. So I don’t have a full understanding of what it’s like to be hating motherhood or whatever because I don’t get why you’d go through everything we’ve been through if you didn’t want it. They didn’t even have half the problems we had! I know it’s not the pain Olympics but jeez.
I also know I’m feeling annoyed because we have a history (as with all relationships) and she’s always the looked after one, and I’m always the one who has to be looking out for her and making sure she’s okay, and just for one day I wanted to celebrate something good that means a lot to me. (Which of course we will still do.)
She’s having a lot harder time with motherhood and probably prone to post natal depression and of course I’m expecting too much. I’ve just spent my whole life with her being the vulnerable one, and the one who needs looking after and building up, and it feels kind of crappy that the one day where we have to celebrate B and the happiest thing in my life, none of my siblings will be there.
I also know that when it comes round to her daughter being christened or whatever that we will all have to go. I haven’t even been to see them yet as she’s weird about people visiting – didn’t want anyone to come when she was born, and said she only wanted a visit for like an hour, which is kind of a crazy expectation on a six hour round trip. Now apparently she’s ready for a visit, we are busy every weekend in September and anyway I feel annoyed about the naming and I don’t feel like seeing them until that has passed and I have it out of my system.
I keep telling myself to suck it up and stop feeling annoyed but I can’t help it. I feel super resentful. I also know rationally that I’ll have a better time without her there, because she’s super high maintenance and usually has a miserable face on her and would want to leave early and whatever.
I also know she’s trying to make up for it but its just ridiculous. Like she sent me £40 vouchers for cheese because I love cheese and I was annoyed about the rocker but firstly what am I going to do with £40 of cheese and secondly the cost of the rocker and the sleepyhead was a lot more than £40. I know she’s trying but I just want her to leave me alone until the naming is over and I’ve had a few weeks to get over it.
I think I’m just sick of being the okay one, the strong one, and I want someone to acknowledge how f*cking hard this has been and what an amazing thing it is that I’m a mother.
Most of the time I’m fine at concentrating on that and not concentrating on the sibling stuff.
So there you have it. I’m not all sweetness and light. I feel pretty bad for having these feelings. I know most people sympathise with her rather than me because people have been feeling sorry for her all our lives because she’s the one who doesn’t cope with things and I always do. I’ve always been the okay one and she’s always been the fragile one. And I know this is a total foot stamping moment on my part and I’m not proud of it.
You can’t pick your family unless you adopt them (ha!) so I am just venting… In a few weeks I’ll be fine, and anyway I want to concentrate on making a really nice day to celebrate B and if my siblings aren’t there then whatever; my friends will be. My aunt and uncle even changed their plans to come from up north (further away than my sister) so that’s nice. And our best friends will be there who know how much this means to us.
Today a friend of mine posted an ultrasound picture on Facebook and gaily announced to the world that their baby would be born next February.
I already knew she was pregnant because I was one of the first people she told. We’d discussed pregnancy and whether she should start trying, and how she was going to persuade her boyfriend to try, and figuring out ovulation and so on. I told her about our experience and encouraged her to come off the pill and try sooner rather than later, if she could get her boyfriend to agree.
I guess he agreed because a few short months later, they’re pregnant. I was kind of surprised by how little time it took, because in infertility-land you get used to talking in years rather than months. She told me how many months it took: three.
Three months! Straight off the pill and up the duff!
Now, I am okay, but a couple of years ago this would have floored me. Why is it always someone else who just has to come off the pill a couple of months and get pregnant?!
I really do feel happy and thankful for my life now. I feel (secularly!) blessed. But I have to confess I had a slight twinge of… something… when she told me she was pregnant. I don’t know what it is… It’s a sort of wistful, “Oh, to be that innocent!” The way they posted it all over Facebook without any worries they might lose the baby. The way they got pregnant so easily having barely tried. I guess I just feel wistful that I never got to have that innocence and that straightforward expectation that nothing would go wrong, that we’d just try and it would happen.
My infertility was measured more in decades. One and a half, more or less.
What do you call yourself when you were previously infertile but by some (secular) miracles and scientific interventions you managed to have a baby?
I’m a mother. But I’m not a normal mother. I’m a pinch-myself-daily-because-I-can’t-believe-I-actually-had-a-baby mother. I’m a Thank You Science mother. I’m a “If you think you might have issues getting pregnant you really should try straight away and let me know if you want to know anything about endometriosis, IVF or immune therapy” mother.
I’ll never have that whole will we, won’t we have another one dilemma. We are over the moon with our lovely One and Only.
I’ll never innocently post early scans on Facebook for people to guess whether it’s a boy or a girl or who the baby looks like. Nobody knew about our pregnancy who didn’t see me in real life. There are still people who don’t know!
I had a twinge of something, a remembrance of loss of innocence, and I’m happy for my friends and I’m happy for us because we are so lucky to have B, but I had a twinge because I remember what it was like to be there, and I’m thinking of all of the people still in the trenches, or those who have had to walk away from the dream of being parents… and I’m sad for them.
So – mothers after infertility. Mothers after loss. I don’t think infertility ever leaves you. I don’t think loss ever leaves you. But we know desperately how lucky we are.
We finally completed on our new home and got the keys a few days ago. I still get the happy shivers when I walk in! It’s our almost-forever home (before we retire to Florida to live out our days at Disney World!). It’s the home B will grow up remembering. I still love our other little flat and we are hopefully going to keep it and rent it out (B’s pension!). But this one is bigger, and has outside space – a terrace for Dog and B to play on, and for us to lounge on, and it’s pretty much perfect. Our dream home!
I still can’t believe I got everything I ever dreamed of. A great guy after a sad end to a previous relationship. The best dog you could ever ask for. A rainbow baby after years of trying and loss. A blood relative after almost 40 years of being a genetic island. A job I’m actually enjoying rather than enduring. When I look back to when I started this blog, and where we were at a couple of years ago, I feel very lucky.
I don’t take it for granted. I thank my lucky stars every day. I still have fleeting moments of anxiety where I’m scared I will lose it all, and especially B. (Not to the point of unmanageable anxiety or post natal depression, but I see danger everywhere now I have something so precious I couldn’t bear to lose.)
But the overwhelming joy and love I feel for finally getting to be a mother, and for the ease at which I’ve become B’s mama (he is the most easy going baby ever born, and the cutest, though I may be biased…) is something that cheers me every day and makes the memories of the hard times fade a little. I know I was lucky already, with T and Dog, so it feels like too much to have wished for this, but somehow it happened. I just feel so thankful for everything and especially my boys.
…sometimes I can’t find the words. And Facebook is such an instant kind of interaction whereas blogging has some sort of responsibility associated with it, to have a subject or theme rather than just stream of consciousness rambling… (although anyone who’s followed my blog for a while will be used to that!).
I guess it’s a bit hard to think of pithy subjects for blog posts when there’s such a lot going on in the world. And I have a lot of other outlets for discussing that, and others have done it far more justice than I ever could, so I’ll just say I’m saddened and kind of scared with what’s going on right now. It makes me wonder if one day in future we will look back on these days and think they were peace time. I hope that isn’t the case.
We all have a responsibility to speak out. As a transracial adoptee I feel my “foreignness” more than most people, and I’m astounded and saddened by what is happening in America now.
B turned seven months old! I can’t believe my baby is over half a year old. It’s gone by so quickly. I’m sure this happens to every parent but I feel like this time I’m sort of at peak love with him. Although probably next month I’ll think I love him even more. He’s at a great age now where he gives a fair amount of feedback, smiling and giggling, and he’s almost confident at sitting up (only falling over occasionally and slowly) and trying to crawl (but only succeeding in moving backwards, generally under the sofa). He’s tried food but doesn’t like it much. Which means: We’ve now reached seven months of breastfeeding!
One of my biggest surprises about this entire journey is how much I’ve enjoyed breastfeeding. I started out thinking I’d probably end up doing formula, because my body manages to cock up everything else, but for some reason I seem to be made to nurse my baby.
It’s an amazing feeling to think that my milk has nourished him to seven months. And he’s really pretty healthy. He’s quite big for his age – we know other babies who are a few months older and he doesn’t look significantly smaller. And aside from the occasional snotty nose and nursery bug, he’s been really well.
Also as an adoptee who wasn’t breastfed, I feel that it’s a very healing thing to be able to nurse my own biological baby. That’s not to say I wish I’d been breastfed. I really find that difficult as a concept from an adoption standpoint. We have had many discussions about it in adoption groups – suffice to say that pretty much all the adoptees were against it and all the people supporting it were adoptive parents. It’s a very emotive subject for adoptees and led to me deciding to leave my local LLL group. (I really support breastfeeding but adoptive breastfeeding is something else. I understand different people have different views and I can only speak for mine as an adult transracial adoptee, that it is deeply taboo in our community.) It’s a shame as we have had such a good breastfeeding experience and I was thinking of becoming a peer supporter. But still – we are still enjoying it and will probably end up doing the extended breastfeeding unless he decides to wean himself earlier! I’m not particularly worried as I guess most 15 year olds aren’t into it!
We are starting to wean B, but we are a bit lacksadaisical about it. We wanted to do baby led weaning, but he really isn’t very interested in food, so we’ve ended up doing some mush as well. I have to say I’m grossed out by mush. Especially banana. I hate bananas but it turns out babies love them. B doesn’t seem averse although he never voluntarily goes for food. He’ll eat mush offered to him on a spoon but stuff in his hand he just waves around. Apart from the baby chocolate biscuit. He’s clearly a man after my own heart.
We decided to hold a naming ceremony. I guess really we would have had a christening but neither of us is religious and so it felt like it would be a bit hypocritical. We wanted to mark B’s entrance to the world somehow… I guess it’s a natural inclination to want some sort of significance to it. Anyway I was going to do it myself and then thought about it and how I’d probably turn to mush and start crying, so I found a humanist celebrant who’s going to do it. Quite excited as we’ve been to humanist weddings in the past and they are really nice and personal. Anyway will have to write more about that on another post!
We are finally completing on our new house! Wow, it’s been an insanely long wait. We first made an offer that was accepted back in April. It’s been a bit frustrating – like what are they actually doing? – but feels amazing to think we will get our dream home this week! I actually feel a little sad for our lovely tiny current flat, but we are keeping it and hope to rent it out. I would love for us to keep it for B so he has some security for when he’s older, but we shall see. The new place isn’t actually a house but another flat very nearby – it’s just that it has a terrace so we will have some outside space, and it has two bedrooms so B can have one of his own! And a slightly bigger living room so he can actually learn to crawl! So exciting. It’s funny when I see people’s homes outside London and they are massive! We have low expectations for space here! I absolutely love London though and can’t really see us moving until much much later. Maybe when we retire to Disney World!
We have booked B’s first Disney trip! Before I was pregnant we went to Disneyland Paris each year during the Christmas season, and last year was the first time we missed it as I was heavily pregnant at Christmas. We decided because we both have our “big” birthdays this year (don’t mention it!) and it’ll be B’s first Christmas that we would go all out. We always go past the Disneyland hotel and sometimes even pop in for a drink or dinner. Well we have booked a posh room there with a park view! So excited. Now to find some good outfits for B…!
Stuff is actually going okay at work. The funny thing is, I made a decision to try and get on with The Woman (my new manager) and actually we’ve been getting on really well. She went on holiday and left me in charge of a piece of work and I caned it (up till 3am one night finishing it!) so I think she appreciated that I was pretty good even though I’m working from home most of the time. So although it’s hard work, I do tend to enjoy working hard periodically. I like that I have other days when I have hardly anything! Anyway it’s sort of nice to be able to take pride in my work!
My sister had her baby! I now have another niece. She was absolutely tiny weeny (a bit over 6lbs) and she’s super skinny… I don’t think B was ever that tiny! She ended up having a really similar experience to mine – ending in an unplanned caesarean. On the flip side she doesn’t really seem super happy about it – I think it has all gotten on top of her. I may have mentioned before she is quite highly strung… So I think the whole thing has traumatised her. I’m hoping that it’s going to pass and she won’t end up having postnatal depression – although I can see it happening. Luckily baby is fine and hopefully with a period of adjustment my sister will get into the swing of things.
I was finally a bridesmaid! They do say, “Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride!” So I kind of thought seeing as I’ve been a bride, maybe never a bridesmaid. Anyway it was such a fun day. Our bridesmaid crew was just the three of us and it was a great experience. I mean really all you have to do is turn up and have your hair and makeup done and wear a dress. It was kind of great. I even managed to nurse in the bridesmaid dress although it was a bit of a “wap ’em out” situation. Also I almost gave people an eyeful during the ceilidh dancing when the boob tube part of the dress came fully down! Fortunately I had some fabric over my boobs but there is no time during Strip the Willow (energetic Scottish country dancing, lots of spinning) to correct it. Ha! It was wonderful to see my friend so happy and to get married to the perfect guy for her. (I take full credit for persuading her to do internet dating!)
I think that’s about up to date with the news. Oh aside from the fact that I woke up today with what feels like horrendous whiplash. How did that happen?! Who knows. I’ve barely been able to move my head all day. I’m in agony. I’ve been taking painkillers in between pumping and feeding (as B is at nursery I have a safe-ish gap) but I am in massive pain. I don’t know how to do make it go away. I have a feeling it’s from side sleeping (co sleeping and feeding during the night) as I tend to get a sore back, but usually that’s manageable lower back pain rather than crippling under neck pain. I had a sports massage which helped a bit but ow!
I guess there was too much good news so I had to have a bit of pain mixed in!
I was looking at old photos of myself on Timehop (God bless Timehop, the regurgitator of past lives!) and realised that I was really skinny. This was something of a surprise to me as I spent a good proportion of my life and most of my adult life feeling fat.
It's like a lot of my old life is something of a shock to me now. I remembered with a jolt the other day that I didn't wear trousers for five years because my ex told me my legs looked a bit like sausages in them. Five years! When did I allow someone else to have such agency over my body?
Even before I met my ex, I think I had some pretty disordered eating. Not quite anorexia – I never really was one for seeing things through – but I did maintain a pretty low body weight that is significantly lower than I am now. (For context: I am around 5'2", and I used to be a UK size 8-10, and now I'm about a UK size 12. Generally not considered "overweight".)
I'm not sure when my disordered eating and strange body image first started. A lot of people (especially girls) start this around puberty, and perhaps that's what happened for me. I think it's a bit deeper than that, though. I was adopted as a baby, transracially, and I grew up around white people so all my life I've looked different from most of the people I was around growing up.
When I went to a predominantly white school, all of this got amplified. I remember that it was a shock because I slowly realised that I was "less than" because of my race. I realised that I was supposed to be blonde haired and blue eyed and I was about as far from that as possible. I started to find myself ugly (and people started to tell me I was ugly to my face). I never had the skinny white girl legs. Mine were muscular and I was just a different build. Really average for my race, as it turns out. But you don't know that as a child if you grow up with people who don't look like you.
Adoption is complex, and I don't know how much of this was tied up in adoption, but I do know I can't separate out being a different race from my overall experience of growing up. My feeling of not fitting in, even though that was all I knew. Anyway, I got kind of chubby. Although looking back, I wasn't chubby. I don't think I was ever actually chubby – I was just short, and not lanky.
Then one time when I was around 16, I went away on a holiday (to learn a language) and when I was there I got pretty sick and I couldn't really eat anything. And I dropped a load of weight. When I got back, suddenly everyone said how amazing I looked because I was skinny. I was suddenly approved of, and I liked it. So I maintained it.
I maintained it for a really long time. The thing is, I'm not naturally meant to be that weight. (It's about 20-30kg lighter than I am now. I don't know exactly how much as I don't know how much I weigh now.) So I got by on some disordered eating that kept me at my magic weight. My magic weight crept up over time… I kept in a 5kg weight range through school, and then it kind of crept up during my time at university, until it was +10kg, and then it was about +15kg in my last few years with IVF and everything. And even +20kg post miscarriage.
For me, I always thought I was "happy" when I was a lower weight. But when I look back, I was always kind of unhappy. I was happy that I'd managed to keep my weight down but I always felt a kind of anxiety about it. I used to weigh myself every day. The number on the scales made me feel like I was achieving something or I was failing something.
When I met T, after I'd split up with my ex – I had to adjust to a new way of being. I was always very controlled with my ex. He wouldn't think he was, but he controlled a lot about me. He had a huge effect on my feelings of self worth (or not). This was someone who had always dated very skinny women and even told me I was the fattest person he'd ever been with. It made me feel pretty bad about myself that I was that. The whole thing with my ex was that I never felt good enough. With T, I felt good enough. He really didn't care about weight. I actually met him when I was still pretty skinny and I piled on the relationship pounds… I let myself go.
I'm still conflicted about how I feel about it, because I recognise that my magic weight wasn't magic at all, but a strange idea of how I was supposed to look. And T tells me he loves me the way I am. But it was hard in the beginning putting on pregnancy weight – not just because of the weight itself, but the fear that it might be for nothing, like our first IVF and pregnancy was.
This pregnancy that gave me B also gave me a lot of weight. Firstly I had to take IVF drugs which make you put on weight. And also I had to take steroids which make you put on weight also. I got to halfway through pregnancy in a state of fear that it wouldn't work out, but then when I got halfway I decided I was going to try my best not to fear it any more.
I also decided to stop weighing myself. I have weighed myself every day, sometimes multiple times a day, since I was a teenager. I even recorded my weight every day in an app so I could see how much weight I put on. It's a bit crazy obsessive.
When I was properly pregnant, I gave myself permission to stop weighing myself. And I let myself relax into the pregnancy.
And you know what?
The strange thing is, I have no doubt I'm at least magic weight +20kg. Possibly +30kg. And I definitely have my moments of feeling a bit concerned about it (especially if I catch a glimpse of myself coming out of the shower – stretch marks and overhang and pendulous mammaries hanging out) but I generally feel absolutely awesome.
I don't know how it works for other people but for me – my body was always this thing that failed me. I wasn't the same as my white friends. I looked different. I was ultimately not enough – I wasn't enough for my birth mother to keep me; I wasn't enough for my ex to love me how I needed to be loved; I wasn't thin enough or attractive enough or whatever.
But having B was like all vanity went out of the window. I love myself now, because I know I'm just the same as anyone else – I'm fallible and imperfect, but my messed up body gave me B and I love myself for that.
I love my ridiculous humungaboobs that feed B like a dream… when his dad "flies" him over to me for a feed, he giggles and opens his mouth to latch on. They may be saggy and baggy but they do exactly what they need to do to feed my baby, and I'm proud I've been able to do that and even to pump for him so he's been exclusively breastfed for his entire life, for half a year.
I love my saggy stomach. (This one requires a bit more imagination!) I love that it carried B safely (even though he needed cutting out at the last minute!). I love that I got to experience being gloriously, amazingly pregnant. I once had a big bump that I never thought I'd get to have, and I grew a human in there, and if it looks like a fleshy deflated balloon well – so be it. My bikini days are over anyway and I have an awesome very flattering swimsuit with tummy panels!
I love my fuller face. (Again this is a hard one!) I love that it's the face that my son loves. His eyes light up when he sees me. He giggles and reaches his arms out. We even had to hide the cushion with my face on because he kept staring at it! Yes, I don't have the cheekbones I used to have but they'll come back one day. Or maybe they won't. But I refuse to hate my face because it looks a little bit like my boy's and I love his.
Anyone who sees me now probably thinks I've "let myself go". And I really have.
I've given myself permission to breathe out. (You kind of have to if you had a caesarean, just saying.)
I've given myself permission to not care. I don't have to listen to the whispering voices of bullies from the past, who said I was fat and ugly. I'm not fat and ugly. I am the size I needed to be to carry my baby into existence. I'm the face of my ancestors, who I'm finally beginning to connect with through adoption forums and same race groups, and I refuse to be ashamed of my non-whiteness because I don't ever want to see that shame in my son's face.
Of course I don't advocate being unhealthy. (Well, chocolate notwithstanding.) The thing is, I'm a size bigger than I was pre-pregnancy. But there's a freedom in letting myself have this. I have told myself I won't diet until I finish breastfeeding. Right now, I don't know when that will be. I want to do at least a year. In fact I'm enjoying it so much (never thought I'd say that!) that I joke I'll do it till he's 15… although I think he might decide to wean himself before then! (We have started baby led weaning but B is not interested in the least… It's a messy business!)
I will start exercising again when I have the time, for sure. But it will be just for myself. I miss the enjoyment I used to get from exercise, a bit, but then we are pretty active as we walk almost everywhere and we have Dog, and he gets us out and about. Plus I do swimming with B once a week, if bobbing around in the shallow end counts. (Yes it does!)
The important thing is that I want B to have a healthy self esteem and be happy. And a huge part of that is having happy healthy parents. I don't want him to see his mother dieting or hating the body that he changed by coming into existence. I don't want him to hate half of his race that came from me. We've taken steps… He's in a diverse nursery in the diverse area we live in. So he will never have the experience of feeling the odd one out, like I did.
And his parents are currently happy together and don't argue that much! (And when they do, it's his mama's fault… Hopefully the hormones will have died down a bit by the time he's more aware!) We are hopefully moving to our new place soon, so he'll even have a bit of outside space. And he has an awesome Dog for a buddy, and a load of new buddies at nursery… Life is good… and we are going to focus on the good things we are grateful for, rather than the bad things we wish we didn't have.
Those of you who have followed my blog for a while will know we are massive Disney fans. We have booked to bring B to Disneyland Paris this year, because even though he won't remember it, it's our happy place (and we will save Orlando and the transatlantic flight for when he's older!). We have been every year apart from last year (heavily pregnant) as a couple and now we're going back as a family.
And of course, one of the best Disney songs ever is from Frozen: Let it Go. I don't tell that many people this, but I can barely ever listen to that song without wanting to cry. It's the perfect song that sums up so much of how I feel. (Which is strangely embarrassing given I'm an almost-40 year old definitely not Scandinavian most likely not a princess archetypally buttoned up British-by-adoption person.)
Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone!
So here's the thing… I never was perfect. But I was trying to be, and it was exhausting.
And I never realised that all this time I needed to find acceptance. Not from other people, but from myself.
Back at work and working on a bid response from the local coffee shop. You’d think this was a good thing as I like bids, but not when you have to collate submissions from about 15 different teams, and the total submission is limited to 20 pages and they send you about 15-20 pages each! Ahh!
I love work most of the time but last night I worked until around 02:30 and then was up again at 06:30 to get B ready for nursery and to start everything again!
I’m one of those people who does like pressure but it’s a lot different now I have a baby… With T and Dog it wasn’t an issue to work late, whereas B demands my attention and isn’t happy when I’m tapping away at the laptop! And of course I’d rather be snuggling and feeding him than cutting through swathes of technical jargon.
Anyway! Here’s my coffee shop view! As you can see – summer doesn’t dampen my urge for hot chicolate!
There are good and bad things about Timehop. I always find it interesting to see what I did on this day a year ago, and the years before that. Although there are always things we'd rather forget and it doesn't seem to filter those out.
This morning's Timehop showed me this scan picture. So strange to think of what time was like a year ago, when little B was in existence but we had no concept of who he was, and now he's here, bright and alive and spreading butternut squash all over his tray table. (I actually hate butternut squash and it turns out he isn't too keen either.)
I am so grateful to medical science that we have this chance to be his parents, that I have a chance I never thought I'd have, to be a mother. As an adoptee, to know someone biologically related to me. To see someone who looks a bit the same. To know I'll be able to offer that comfort of looking a bit like him and he'll never have to wonder where he came from.
And I think back to this time last year and it seems almost inconceivable(!) how much my life has changed. I'm still the same person and yet I'm not.
I may be out of the trenches of infertility but I can remember what it was like. And the fear that haunted me throughout my pregnancy with B. Right now I'm looking at that scan picture and remembering how I felt relief and I cried that there was a baby there. But I also didn't feel happy that I was pregnant because I was so scared that we would lose this one as well.
And a rainbow baby, as B is, is a special sort of baby. All babies are special of course. But a rainbow baby has parents who know the fear of loss and who went through the special kind of hell before their baby was born. Maybe a rainbow baby has parents who don't take parenthood for granted. I know we don't. I feel a ridiculous sense of gratefulness every single day when I look at his chubby little face.
I don't know what I can say to my friends who are still in the trenches apart from, I feel for you and I want you to know you are not alone. I know that I'm just one more of those annoying people who now have a baby. I know what it's like to feel infertility anger and I bear you no malice if you wish to unfollow. But you must know, you are not alone.
When I joined WordPress three or so years back, I felt like I was talking into a void. I needed somewhere to shout and rage about my infertility and to try and make sense of what we were going through. And then I realised it brought up some feelings about adoption I had buried. And I quickly realised that I wasn't alone at all.
I had such support throughout my whole journey of making sense of all of this. Infertility but also adoption, and feelings about all sorts of things from work to friendships.
And I made real life friends. Some I've never even met in real life but whom I consider actual real life friends!
So although this path is hard, and paved with the small angry pebbles of anger and loss (and running with the tears we have shed! Let's make that metaphor work for us!), know that you are not alone. I promise you. There are good people out there! And the great thing is, your blog is for you and it attracts the people who are interested in what you have to say! Who knew?! There are some pretty awesome folk out there and I hope one day to convert some of my real life not-yet-met friends into actual "I know what your voice sounds like" friends!
So, that's all for today really. Looking back is bittersweet. I know we had a long bloody wait to meet our miracle. And I'd be lying if I said I was happy to go through that. But the outcome was bloody spectacular. I'm biased of course, but B is such a happy baby it's hard to complain about the slightly truncated sleep cycles (co sleeping helps) and the over familiarity with poo (how does it get everywhere?!). When my baby chucks back his head and giggles I think there is not a sight nor sound in human history that will ever top it.
This year is a bumper year. We are planning our "big" birthdays and we are going to take B on his first trip to Disney (Paris – not going to brave a transatlantic flight with a baby!). We decided we are going all out and staying in the Disneyland Hotel. OMG Disney fans! Too exciting. Of course B won't really notice it but we will enjoy it! Hopefully our new flat will settle soon (ah the vagaries of the UK housebuying process!) so B will get his forever home and Dog hopefully will too. (I am still hoping I am right in thinking he is a special species of immortal dog who's going to live forever.) A bit of outside space (it has a terrace) is super exciting for us Londoners. I see my friends overseas and their gigantic yards and I think you'd have to laugh at our modest delusions of grandeur!
So yeah, life is pretty good right now. So much has changed in a year. I am so grateful to my lucky stars and whoever else may have had a hand in it. (Doctors and IVF technicians mainly I guess.) I keep telling myself not to worry about something going wrong. It seems hard to imagine because 2015 was such a bad year, but maybe these things all even out in the end.
And you… I've not had as much time as I expected to catch up on people's blogs. My day seems to lend itself more to the intermittency of Facebook. But I do care about what's going on in your lives! Tell me your news!